The old saying dictates that two heads are better than one, but that is not always the case when it comes to running backs.
The CU football team has used a platoon-style rotation with the top three running backs on its roster in three opening losses. Senior Mell Holliday and juniors Byron Ellis and Hugh Charles have all seen significant playing time in at least one game each this season.
“We have just been looking to use them in the best way possible,” head coach Dan Hawkins said. “Certain plays and certain situations tell you which guy to use.”
Holliday garnered the most carries in the Buffs’ season-opening loss to Montana State, running 15 times for 50 yards. Ellis got the most carries with 8 for 33 yards in the following week’s loss to CSU, and Charles had the best showing of the three with 20 carries for 109 yards against Arizona State.
With the running backs rotating so often, Charles admitted it is hard to get into the rhythm of the game and get the running game going.
“You have to get a rhythm,” he said. “We’ve had a good rotation going, but when you get into a good rhythm, good things happen.”
Ellis talked about how a rotation can be good, but it is easier for a running back to do well when he is getting the most carries.
“When you have a rotation, it keeps everyone fresh, which is good,” Ellis said. “But having a lot of carries in a game just makes it that much easier.”
Junior quarterback Bernard Jackson detailed how important it is to have an established running game that gets into a rhythm for the offense as a whole.
“We need our running game, because no offense is going to be successful without a successful running game,” Jackson said. “It really helps the entire offense when you have a running back or a running game that gets into a rhythm.”
Until his breakout performance against Arizona State, Charles had just seven carries in the first two games after carrying the load for the Buffs last season.
“I guess the first two weeks, the reason I was not playing was because I was getting shown up by the other two guys,” Charles said. “Getting in and staying in really helped me (against ASU).”
Hawkins said Charles’ impressive effort against Arizona State doesn’t necessarily make him the go-to guy.
“We are going to keep using all of them,” Hawkins said. “Hugh is showing up, but we will use all of them.”
After being the Buffs’ workhorse running back last season, Charles said it is frustrating not getting into the game as much. When Hawkins took over as head coach, Charles had to prove himself all over again.
“Coming in with a new coaching staff, they really didn’t know too much,” Charles said. “You would hope they know and keep you in there. It’s frustrating, but you have to be able to work around it. Every good team has their one workhorse back, and that is what I strive to be for this team.”
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